German Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP) has spoken out in favor of introducing “digital cash,” while adding such a move could “make everyday life easier and be a growth engine for the economy.” However, concerns remain that such a move would only be a stepping stone towards abolishing cash, a claim that Lindner currently denies, saying both cash and a digital euro can run side by side.
In a short message on Twitter, Lindner added the digital euro would not be a “self-starter,” warning that “digital cash” would only be widely accepted as a “supplement or equivalent replacement for bills and coins” if privacy is protected.
“Personal and transaction data in everyday transactions must therefore not be stored,” Lindner emphasized. “So if the digital euro is a kind of platform, there will be many startups, for example, that develop additional utility that we can’t even consider today.”
However, the FDP politician said that “digital cash” will not lead to the abolition of cash. “On the contrary, we are working to ensure that the planned digital euro has the same properties in terms of privacy as the printed and minted euro.”
Cash remains the most popular form of payment in Germany, and many citizens value it for the privacy it offers. This year in neighboring Austria, over 500,000 Austrians signed an initiative to enshrine the right to pay in cash into the Austrian constitution.
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The “digital euro” would be digitally issued central bank money that would be accepted alongside euro bills and coins, according to Germans news outlet Junge Freiheit.
“With a digital euro, there would be another payment option to choose from. It would make payment easier, contributing to accessibility and inclusion,” reads the European Central Bank’s website.
Critics of digital central bank currencies argue that they will be rolled out as privacy-friendly at first, but the potential for abuse is enormous. They also argue that in order for the population to accept digital currencies, they must first be given the option of both cash and digital currency, before cash is entirely abolished.
The latest proposal from the ECB also shows that there will be attempts to surveil where money is going and how it is being used. Unlike other digital currencies such as Bitcoin, the ECB argues that there would likely be an acceptance requirement for merchants, but it would also make it easier for the central bank to track money flows.
Since 2021, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the central banks of the euro member states have been studying the implementation of such a digital currency. The review is scheduled to last until October 2023. After that, the ECB’s Governing Council will decide how to proceed with the project.
As Remix News previously reported, digital money could one day be linked to political and social behavior in Western countries in a social credit system, as seen in China. Already, during the “Freedom Convoy” trucker protests against Covid-19 policies in Canada, the left-wing government of Justin Trudeau took the unprecedented step of freezing the bank accounts of protesters. Although civil liberty groups decried the authoritarian action as a flagrant abuse of power, many critics worry that the action could now serve as a template to deal with protesters and dissent in the future. If dissidents and those critical of government cannot keep their money outside the digital space, then they will have now way to safekeep their financial privacy should governments, like the one in Canada, take action against them.